Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are not fun.
However, it is estimated that between 50 and 80 percent of the population will have, or have had a fever blister at some point in their life.
That means there's a good chance that you could someday develop a cold sore. For this very reason, it's a good idea to have a working knowledge of what a cold sore is and how to treat them.
Maybe you just discovered you have a cold sore and you are here for answers.
Don't worry, we've got you covered.
In the article below we'll discuss how you got that cold sore, and what you can do about it.
Article Table of Contents:
What is a Cold Sore?
Cold Sore Symptoms
Causes of Cold Sores
Cold Sore Treatment
Is It Time For Treatment?
A cold sore is a red, fluid-filled blister that typically forms near the mouth but can also form on other areas of the face.
In rare cases, you can get a cold sore on your finger, nose, or the inside of your mouth.
They're also like four-leaf clovers; if you see one, you're likely to see another as they clump together in patches.
Cold sores typically last for two weeks and sometimes longer. The virus that causes cold sores is called herpes simplex.
It's a common virus that can spread through close contacts, such as kissing.
The sores are contagious even if they aren't visible. Unfortunately, there is not a cure for cold sores.
When you think you're finally rid of them, they can return as quickly, or quicker, than they left.
However, the good news is that there are some medicines that will treat cold sores and help prevent them from coming back.
Let's take a look at some of the symptoms.
There are several cold sore stages will pass through while it is active on your face.
Tingling and Itching
You are likely to feel an itching burning or tingling sensation around their lips. That sensation will last for about a day before small, hard, painful spots appear and blisters erupt.
Small fluid-filled blisters will break out along the border of your mouth where your lips meet the skin of your face.
Cold sores will also appear, although rarely, around your nose or your cheeks.
Oozing And Crusting
The small blisters will merge and then burst, leaving shallow open sores that leak fluid and eventually crust over.
Your signs and symptoms may vary depending on whether or not this is your first outbreak or a recurrence. They'll last several days and can take up to a month to heal completely.
If you have any recurrences, they will typically appear at the same spot, with symptoms less severe than your first outbreak.
If it's your first time dealing with cold sores, you may also experience:
Okay, so what causes these awful things?
They're caused by the herpes simplex virus, and there are two types of the virus you have to worry about.
The herpes simplex type 1 virus (HSV-1) usually causes cold sores, and the herpes simplex type 2 virus (HSV-2) usually causes genital herpes.
The actual sores are similar in appearance with both forms of the virus. It's also possible for HSV-1 to cause sores on the genitals, and HSV-2 to cause sores on the mouth.
Visible cold sores are very contagious, and they can even spread before they can be seen. You'll most likely get the herpes simplex virus by coming in contact with infected individuals.
This can be spread by:
Once you've contracted the herpes simplex virus, it can't be cured. It can only be managed.
This means that once the sores have healed, the virus remains, and you are susceptible to another outbreak.
Anytime the virus reactivates new sores will appear.
Individuals that have been infected with the virus report that they have outbreaks when they're immune systems are weak during times of illness or heavy stress.
When the cold sores start to cause pain and become bothersome, you can control pain and promote healing with antiviral ointments.
The ointments tend to be most effective when they're applied as soon as the first signs of a sore appear.
You should apply them four to five times a day, for at least four to five days in a row.
Denavir and Abreva are good treatment options for cold sores. Denavir will require a prescription, while Abreva is a good over the counter option.
Abreva can shorten an outbreak by a few hours or even up to a day.
Remember to apply it several times a day.
Your cold sore can also be treated with oral antiviral medications like Zovirax, Valtrex, and Famvir.
These medicines are available by prescription only.
If you have frequent outbreaks, or experience complications, your doctor is likely to instruct you to take antiviral medications on a regular basis.
Sometimes a simple home remedy can help ease the discomfort caused by your cold sore.
Start by applying a washcloth soaked in cold water over the sores. Using a lip balm with lemon extract also helps.
Other people have reported fewer outbreaks while they take lysine supplements regularly.
Aloe vera has also been proven to bring cold sore relief to patients if applied three times a day.
Witch hazel is a natural astringent that may help dry out and heal cold sores, although it stings when it's applied.
Scientists in one study demonstrated that witch hazel has antiviral properties that can inhibit the spread of cold sores.
Even though these home remedies work for some people, if your symptoms stay the same or become worse, the best thing you can do is see a doctor.
Unfortunately, if you have contracted the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores, there's no going back.
The virus can only be managed, and cannot be cured. However, your cold sore is extremely treatable, and rarely requires a visit to the doctor.
If your symptoms worsen, or you experience complications, you should without a doubt see your doctor.
However, in most cases, the cold sores can be cured with ointments or at home remedies.